WATERWORKS by Gordon Prickett a monthly column for the 10/1/2014 Aitkin Independent Age
WATER AND MORE FRESH WATER
No longer in 2014 across the “Land of Sky-Blue Waters” (Minnesota), is there any talk about drought. Since the ice went out here in late April, regular rain events right up to the beginning of Fall have measured well above normal in every month at our rain gage. Six inches in May, eight in June. Four and a half in July, seven and a half in August. For three weeks in September, five inches! That’s a total thirty one inches. The normal annual precipitation for Aitkin County, according to the DNR is just under twenty nine inches. Our vegetation is lush and already Fall color intensity has never looked brighter.
Minnesota is harvesting bumper crops of corn, beans, and wheat this year, but in the Southwestern U.S. it is extremely dry and wild fires are spreading.
HOW WE MEASURE LAKE LEVELS
Over twenty lakes in Aitkin County have been selected to be in the DNR’s Lake Level Monitoring Program. At each chosen lake they install a lake level gage. Either a permanent gage is installed on a structure such as a bridge pier or dam abutment, or a temporary gage is fastened to a steel fence post and driven into the lake bed at a convenient location. Temporary lake gages are surveyed and checked by DNR crews in the Spring. Lake level gages are read by volunteers within 12 to 24 hours after a substantial rain event, and on a weekly basis.
USES OF WATER LEVEL DATA
Fluctuations of lake levels are important to document in permanent and credible public records. Lakeshore properties may be adversely affected by fluctuations causing either flooding or access problems. A lake level range of 1 foot to 2 feet each year is typical, but historically much greater fluctuations have occurred. Human activities like dams and culverts, as well as beaver activity may also affect lake levels. A ten-year graph of monitored lake levels can be found on the Lake Finder Page from the DNR website.